Below you will find the IELTS speaking vocabulary for different topics in the IELTS speaking test.
You’ll find example speaking questions and how to use these words in context and the definitions of each word.
Use this to increase your vocabulary with useful speaking grammar, lexical resources and idioms and phrases for your speaking.
Vocabulary for IELTS Speaking Topics
Each link below covers a familiar topic on the speaking test along with extensive vocabulary lists, definitions, and a sample answer.
- Friends and Family
- Food and Nutrition
- Travel and Tourism
- Modern Technology
- Coronavirus Vocabulary (new)
- Pollution and the Environment
- People, Personalities and Characters
- Fitness and Health
- School and Education
- Work and Careers
- University and Student Life
- Books, Film and Art
- Climate Change (popular topic)
- Working From Home
- Social Media (popular topic)
- Fashion and Shopping
Advanced vocabulary for IELTS speaking
Here are a list of words that can be considered ‘advanced’ because although they are understood they are used far less in everyday English.
These words were selected because we believe they could be used easily used in the speaking exam. For example, the cue cards usually ask you to talk about a person, place or an experience. You can see the meaning of the words followed by an IELTS-specific example.
Ludicrous – unreasonable, or out of place, so as to be funny. “Well, a person I admire a lot was the Queen of England, and I find it ludicrous some countries would prefer to be a republic, rather than have her as head of state”.
Pinnacle – the most successful point. “A person I admire a lot would be Sir Lewis Hamilton, during his career he has been at the pinnacle of motorsport”.
Proponent – a person who advocates for something. “I think I am a big proponent for making the world a cleaner place, for example…”.
Invigorating – making one feel strong, healthy, and full of energy. “Well, to relax, I find a long hot bath with some candles and music, really invigorates me for next day”.
Indulge – to enjoy the pleasure of something. “Well, to relax, I make a huge hot chocolate, loaded with marshmallows, then grab a pack of biscuits, and indulge my sweet tooth for an hour or two”.
Mere – used to emphasize how insignificant someone or something is. “The mountain cannot be climbed by mere mortals”.
Here is a post full of advanced grammar techniques for your speaking exam.
Is vocabulary the quickest win?
Even native speakers are impressed by other native speakers who have an expansive vocabulary. Similarly, a reduced vocabulary is often associated to reduced intelligence (source).
I always remember my English tutor saying ‘Never use the word nice’. Nice is an incredibly plain and overused word. It is probably among the first 100 words you learnt in English.
There are so many richer and more elegant words for you to use in your IELTS exam:
- Being nice helps to develop confidence. vs. Being pleasant helps to develop confidence.
- Her spoken English skills are really nice. vs Her spoken English skills are profound.
- It is nice to hear phrasal verbs used correctly. vs. It is delightful to hear phrasal verbs used correctly.
Active vocabulary helps your fluency
If the word you are searching for only comes after 5 seconds of waiting and there are pauses in your speaking, you do not sound fluent. Your vocabulary is not activated / it is passive.
Therefore having an extensive vocabulary is useless unless it is activated. Practice exercises to activate your vocabulary must consist of using the word various times after learning it. This is one of the best ways to consolidate your vocab for IELTS speaking.
Make sure the word is used in context though.
Word lists can be helpful if you follow the above rule of using the word various times after learning it.
Listening and repeating authentic native English speaker material on common topics will not only help your pronunciation, your vocabulary but also your fluency.
In English individual words are often pushed together in what is called connective speech. Mimicking helps you get a feel for connected speech.
It is especially useful when you learn a new word because you get the context and the correct pronunciation first time.
Likewise, learning an entire phrase by mimicking it will help with your intonation and make you sound more like a native speaker.
TIP: Most people don’t know that if you know you make a mistake it is ok to go back and correct yourself, just make sure it does not happen very often otherwise it may start to affect your score. For more help on learning speaking vocabulary and tips on the IELTS speaking test check out this guide.
Reading (not the shy or perfectionists)
Although reading is definitely useful you do not want to have ‘text book English’ which means all your English is in your head and not in your mouth. Basically you know a lot but cannot use it.
This is common among shy students and perfectionists who are reluctant to make mistakes and hate being embarrassed.
Unfortunately, the only way to get a high score and improve your speaking skills is to get out there and make mistakes. Get feedback and learn from the errors. Make the most of the classes at school or online by insisting your tutor either corrects you or notes down your mistakes. Otherwise, the lesson is just casual chit-chat between friends.
A mistake in speaking is only a failure if you failed to learn from it.
Improving your writing can help
A strong writer is often a strong communicator. Articulate writers often find their skills carry over into the speaking domain. This is especially true with the topic specific vocabulary learnt for the other modules such as writing task 2, and the reading test.
A high score through the accurate use of idioms can be achieved, if they are used naturally and accurately, here is a guide on how to use idioms in your speaking exam.
Be warned though, you must be confident you are using it aptly otherwise it can sound forced and unnatural.
Quick Speaking Tips
Tip 1. Don’t memorize your answers before the exam.
Tip 2. Develop the skill to talk spontaneously on different topics.
Tip 3. Practice your IELTS speaking using sample questions with other students.
Tip 4. Don’t be shy to ask for clarification.
Tip 5. Elaborate, explain, and develop your answers. If possible try to use more academic language.
Tip 6. Don’t rush your answers. Speak slowly and clearly (it may seem slow to you but will most likely be a natural pace).
Tip 7. Don’t panic if you make a mistake.
Tip 8. Practise fluency and accuracy separately.
Tip 9. Practise speaking about different topics with native and non-native speakers.
Tip 10. Use anecdotes, especially in your practice lessons, so as to avoid errors on exam day.
Tip 11. When using examples in your responses, try to avoid hypothetical situations.
Tip 12. Learn useful phrases for the exam, especially phrases related to the IELTS speaking topics.
Tip 13. Write out your sample answers and try and upgrade them (especially the basic vocabulary!).
Tip 14. Developing your listening skills is also essential for a high score. You want to be able to understand the examiner without asking for clarification.
Get the full lesson about speaking tips here.
More IELTS Speaking Tutorials
Take a look at some more speaking tutorials to help you in your IELTS exam
- Full guide to speaking part one of the exam
- Learning English Idioms
- How to give your opinion in the speaking exam
- Complex sentence structures to use in your speaking exam
- How to Greet the Examiner when you start your IELTS Speaking test
- Idioms to use in your IELTS Speaking exam
- IELTS Speaking tips to Achieve Band 9
- How to Speak about Hobbies in Part 1
- Using Conditionals in your Speaking Exam
- Questions and Model Answers for IELTS Speaking
- Advanced Grammar | Inversion
- IELTS Advanced Speaking: Cause and Effect
- IELTS Academic Language Word List